I chose to live alone after I gave birth to my first and only child, dead and blue before it left my womb. My husband of six years left me when we found out that I was infertile, in which a particularly nasty divorce ensued. We lived in the center of Brooklyn on the bottom floor of a beautiful three-story townhouse. We rented the top two floors to a young couple who were just married and had a baby girl on the way. They were both very successful; the woman Alison was a high-esteemed pediatrician while her husband Jackson spent long days and night as a heart surgeon.
My husband Charlie was a private school teacher. He traveled for lectures and book-writing, leaving me by myself a lot of the time. I found out that Alison and I were due three days apart in the month of May; we became very close fairly quickly. I am still convinced that she is an angel sent to me from God himself.
She was the one who comforted me that horrid morning where I lost the love of my life, my little boy. If I close my eyes now and think back to April, almost all I can see is bright crimson red flowing in rivers, covering my thighs and hands until it overtakes me. I can see Alison when she burst through my bathroom door in a fury of light. Her voice is the last thing I remember, comforting and calm as I succumbed to the merciless darkness of unconsciousness.
After I rewoke to find myself in a hospital bed, my life had altered in a way I could never fathom. I felt shameful and cold, so very cold no matter how many blankets the nurses layered on top of me. There was a hole in my stomach and a gash in my heart that I knew would never heal. I felt the hollow thud of my pulse every second of every day, my breasts where aching to feed and my swollen belly was a continuous reminder of my failure.
Charlie blamed me. He told me if I stopped going on expeditions for dumb rocks after six months like he advised me, the baby would have lived. It doesn’t matter that the doctor told us it couldn’t have been anything I did, the baby simply wasn’t getting enough nutrients after time went on and did not thrive to reach full-term.
‘Simply.’ I thought. ‘Simply, a death of a child and the death of his mother’s soul.’
Charlie did not have sympathy for me when the doctor returned days later to tell me I would never be able to birth a child again. Instead, he was disgusted. He was appalled, downright cruel in its utmost form. I try to tell myself it was grief that changed him, but nothing could make me forgive him when my lawyer visited me to let me know that not only was my husband serving me with divorce papers, but he also had cause to take all of our belongings. I would be left with the house, and the renters.
It was tolerable at first because I was glad to be home. The loneliness seemed to subside when I began painting. I thought I may be gaining back the little pieces of myself that I lost, until the baby girl Rina was born. I was so happy for my dear friends and yet I spent endless nights in my vacant living room with my eyes fixated on a crib made for Charles III, listening to the cries of Rina above me. She was so wondrous and beautiful, her hair sparse, her tiny fingers and toes were perfect. She had those infant blue eyes that were always looking around, examining, observing. A warm, happy little body bundled up in love.
I could no longer sleep, nor eat after two months of self-torture. All I could do was paint, which I wasn’t very good at. I had only picked it up on a whim when I found an old easel with a canvas in one of the townhouse closets. I was surprised Charlie let me keep it, miniscule as it may seem to anyone else, it was my savior in my need of mindless distraction.
I painted the outlines of faces, but no faces. I tried fruit, flowers, houses. I ruined them every time; either my shading was off or the symmetry was crooked. My proportions were ridiculous, cartoonish. I persisted in vain because the swirl of the brush on the rough canvas was addictive. It was firm and sure. I knew once I put bristle to paper, I could count on color to follow.
It was a blistering day in July when I was standing amidst a pile of empty coffee mugs that an image came to me.
A farm. Rolling greens hills giving way to a rocky coastline, the swelling waves crashing below. A house atop a hill in the distance, historic and pleasant and small compared to the grand burgundy barn sitting yards below it. Forest for as far as the eye could see, a sky so large with clouds passing in great grey sheets that its beauty was magnificent
I painted for what must have been hours. I did not have anything other than the image in my head. I was sure I didn’t know what I was doing, yet I was positive I needed to try. When I finally stepped back, I saw it. I saw it all in its glory and within that moment I knew it was real. This had to be a place- somewhere, my place. I had to find it.
A farm life seemed so keen compared to the constant bustle of the city and the nightly cries of sweet baby Rina.